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Healing Charms in Use in England and Wales 1700-1950 Author(s): Owen Davies Source: Folklore, Vol.

107 (1996), pp. 19-32 Published by: Taylor & Francis, Ltd. on behalf of Folklore Enterprises, Ltd. Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1260911 Accessed: 29/06/2010 12:42
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Folklore107 (1996):19-32 RESEARCH PAPER

Healing Charms in Use in England and Wales 1700-1950


OwenDavies

Abstract The collectionand analysis of Anglo-Saxonand early medieval healing charmshas long generated an active interestin their content and application.However, despite the quite extensive ethnographicevidence concerningthe content of healing charmsin use from the eighteenthto the twentieth centuries,there has been no attempt,so far,to make an extensive collection of charmformulaefrom this period. This paper seeks to begin that task. It is hoped that this inventory,not only serves to highlight an importantaspect of the Englishand Welsh traditionof folk medicine,but also serves to indicate the long history of that tradition.An examinationof these charmsalso provides an illustrationof the importanceof the written word in the transmissionof popular knowledge. Introduction The healing charms employed in England and Wales in the post-medieval period have never received the close scholarly attention they deserve. While in Russia, for example, there has been over a century of detailed historical and linguistic research on the living tradition of charmers and healing charms (Conrad 1989), modem British academics have largely neglected this aspect of popular magic. Although nineteenth and early twentieth century folklorists did take an interest in such charms, little was understood about them, and, with the exception of William Mackenzie's study of Gaelic healing charms (Mackenzie 1895), no attempt was made by folklorists, historians or linguists to analyse their origin, structure or regional distribution. However, there is, and has long been, an academic interest in the Anglo-Saxon and medieval charm tradition (see, for example: Cockayne 1864-6; Grendon 1909; Storms 1948;Bonser 1963;Biihler 1964; Foley 1981;Jolly 1985; Smallwood 1989; Hunt 1990), and it is hoped that this study will provide some sense of the continuity of that tradition. The cataloguing of charms collected from eighteenth and nineteenth century sources, both written and oral, serves to highlight a current of popular healing magic which stretches back to Saxon times, and provides an insight into the importance of the written word in the transmission and perpetuation of popular beliefs. The object of the present paper is to provide, for the first time, a substantial preliminary inventory of the popular charm record in England and Wales from the eighteenth to the twentieth centuries. The charms have been classified according to the nine ailments they are cures for. A more complex classification based on the content and structure of these charms could be developed, but the simpler classification serves the present purpose well enough. Whether these charms were collected in their written form or taken down from oral sources often depended on whether their healing efficacy lay in their being recited by charmers or their being used as written talismans. Examples of the latter type are the charms for toothache and for ague and fever quoted here. An illustration of how one such talismanic charm was obtained from its owner concerns toothache charm B6, below. In 1866 a young man suffering from toothache, "finding that the pain resisted the charm," went to have his bad tooth extracted by a "well-known" surgeon at Crewkerne, Somerset. In the course of conversation with the surgeon, the young man showed him the charm, which he had been wearing round his neck, and its contents were subsequently passed on to the Somerset County Herald (Letter 1866). In other instances such charms were obtained after they had proved effective and were no longer needed. The majority of the charms listed here were, however, collected from the charmers themselves. Many of them were found in charmers' receipt books or on carefully preserved scraps of paper, and by these means had been handed down through several generations. However, as is apparent from the discussion of stanching charms (A, below), we must always be aware of the possibility that such charms may derive from earlier sources. In some cases we can detect from irregularities in spelling and structure that manuscript versions of charms had either been repeatedly copied (see C3 and C4, below), presumably over a long period of time, or had been written down from an oral source. Before presenting the charm inventory, some preliminary observations will be in order. (i) There is quite extensive evidence for the widespread use of these charms during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, but perhaps the best proof is that charmers continued to be popular until well into the

20 present century (Leather 1912, 70-7; Lang 1969; Brown 1970; Deane and Shaw 1975, 120-1). However, in preparing this list, care has been taken to include only charm formulae for which there is evidence of their being in use at the time the source was published. (ii) A significant proportion of the charms in the inventory derive from west country sources, particularly from Devon. This could represent the comparative vitality of the charming tradition in the region during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Alternatively, it could be collection bias. The folklore reports in the Transactions of the Devonshire Association for the Advancement of Science, Literature and Art, in particular, generated a lively interest in the recording of healing charms known and used in the county. The dominance of charms from the west country should not therefore be taken as necessarily indicating either the strength of charming tradition in the west country or its weakness nationwide. Although I have found no charm formulae for ringworm or erysipelas from northern England, for example, there is evidence that there were charmers in the region who charmed for both ailments ("Modern Witchcraft in Durham"). Early this century, Henry Penfold knew of erysipelas charmers still operating in eastern Cumbria, who rubbed the affected area with a stone "at the same time muttering some invocation to the trinity, the exact words of which are unknown to the patient" (Penfold 1907, 54). To redress this possibly misleading imbalance in the charm record, therefore, wherever possible I have tried to include as many pertinent examples of charm formulae recorded in areas other than the west country. (iii) The paucity of the record in northern and eastern England also poses problems when attempting to delineate distinctive regional variations. Tentative attempts to present some sense of regionality have been made, even if it is only to indicate where a charm variation not recorded in the extensive Devon material is known elsewhere. (iv) The charms cited in the present inventory fall into the first two of the three categories outlined by Richard Kieckhefer: prayers, which take the form of requests directed to God, Jesus, Mary or a saint; blessings, which take the form of wishes directed to the patient; adjurations, which take the form of commands directed to the sickness itself or to the agent responsible (Kieckhefer 1990, 69). Prayers and blessings are not inherently magical, of course, but they can easily be integrated with magical concepts, and in the context of use cited here, can be legitimately termed "charms." Perhaps the most magical aspect of such prayers and blessings was the perceived immediacy of their effect.'1

Owen Davies

The inventory
A. Charmsfor Stanching Blood 1. From a manuscript account book of a nineteenth century Cornish charmer (Couch 1871, 148).2 Our Saviour was born of Bethleam of Judeah. As he passed by revoor of Jorden,the waters waid were all in one. The Lord ris up his holy hand, and bid the waters still to stan, and so shall the blood. Three times. 2. From Shropshire (Burne 1883, 183). Through the blood of Adam's sin Was taken the blood of Christ. By the same blood I do thee charge That the blood of [name] run no more at large. 3. From Cumbria, c. 1736-51 (Cowper 1899, 314). To stop Bleeding in Man or Beast at any Distance, first you must have some Drops of ye Blood upon a Linen Ragg and wrap a Little Roman Vitriollupon this Ragg put it under your oxter [armpit] and say these words thrice into yrself "There was a Man Born in Bethlem of Judea Whose name was Called Christ. Baptized in the River Jordan In the Watter of the flood and the Child also was meak and good and as the watter stood So I desire thee the Blood of Such a person or Beast to stand in their Bodie, in the name of the father son and Holy Ghost Amen." Then Look into the Ragg and at that moment the Blood stopeth the Blew powder is Turnedinto Blood by sympathy. 4. From Shropshire. One of seven charms from a small manuscript book belonging to a blacksmithfarrier at Clun. The handwriting is of the early nineteenth century ("Charms"). A C[harm] to stop blud.-Our Saviour Jesus Crist was borne in Bethalem was Baptsed of Jon in the river of Jordan. God commanded the water to stop & it stoped So in his name do I command the blood to Stop that run from this orrafas vain or vaines as the water Stoped in the River of Jordan wen our Saviour Jesus Crist was baptized in the name of the Father.Stop blud in the name of the sun stop blood in the name of the Holeygst not a drop more of blud proceduth Amen Amen Amen-to be sed 3 times but if the case be bad 9 times and the Lords praier before & after holding your rithand on the place and marck the place thus + with your midel finger. 5. From Cornwall (Hunt 1923, 413). Sanguis mane in te, Sicut Christusfuit in se; Sanguis mane in tua ven$, Sicut Christusin sua pena; Sanguis mane fixus, Sicut Christus quando crucifixus.

Healing Charmsin Use in England and Wales 1700-1950 6. From Cornwall (Hunt 1923, 414; see also Courtney 1890, 151). Christwas born in Bethlehem, Baptizedin the riverJordan; Therehe digg'd a well, And turn'd the water against the hill, So shall thy blood stand still. In the name, &c. 7. From the Isle of Man (Moore 1891, 98). Threegodly men camefrom Rome-Christ, Peter,and Paul. Christwas on the cross, his blood flowing, and Mary on her knees close by. One took the enchanted one in his right hand, and Christdrew a cross + over him. Threeyoung women came over the water,one of them said, "up,"anotherone said, "stay," and the third one said, "I will stop the blood of man or woman." Me to say it, and Christ to do it, in the name of the Father,and the Son, and the Holy Ghost. 8. From Wales (Roberts 1965, 207). Yn gynta gwna groes ar yr archoll gan ddywedyd y fendithhonn:jn nomine Patriset Filijetc. Kyn gywired ac y ganed Mab Dyw ym Bethelemac y bedyddywyd yn dyfwr Jordana chyn gywired ac y safws y dyfwr, saf dithey waed. Jnnomine Patrisetc., a dyweid pump Pader,pymp Ave Mariaa thr[ I er ynrydedd yr pump archoll [ ] gan veddyleid am y ddioddei. 9. From Devon. Obtained from an old lady of Cudlipton (TDA 32 [1900]:92). The verse to stop nose-bleedingis the 6th verse of the 16thchapterof Ezekielwhich must be repeatedby one of the opposite sex from the patient. Synopsis of (A) These charms for checking the flow of blood exhibit considerable variety, though the motif of Christ's baptism in the river Jordan is obviously the dominant theme and appears in medieval manuscripts as early as the tenth century. The story of God stopping the waters of the river Jordan during Christ's baptism is apocryphal. In Matthew 13 we are told of his baptism by John the Baptist, but there is no mention of God stopping the Jordan's flow. However, in the apocryphal ChroniconPaschaleit is stated that, at Christ's baptism, "The Lord said unto John: 'Say unto Jordan, stand! The Lord hath come to us.' And at once the waters stood." Charm A9 was, however, taken straight from the Old Testament, and consisted of the repetition of the Ezekiel16:6, "And passing by thee, I saw that thou wast trodden under foot in thy own blood. And I said to thee when thou wast in thy blood: Live. I have said to thee: Live in thy blood." Tony Cleverdon, a Cornish charmer, told R.S. Hawker that he repeated this charm "only twice with an outblow between each time" (Hawker 1870, 177). In Wales, the same passage was

21 recited nine times while the charmer dipped his or her finger in blood and made the sign of the cross upon the patient's forehead (Trevelyan 1909, 226). The key to the efficacy of the baptism charm is, of course, the sympathy between the river Jordan's flow and the blood issuing from the patient's "orrafas vain or vaines." In charm A3 the sympathetic effect is heightened by the addition of some simple chemical "magic." The written instructions tell the reader to apply a little "Roman Vitrioll" to a rag and stuff it under an armpit; as the blood ceases to flow so the "Blew powder is Turned into Blood by sympathy." "Roman Vitrioll" presumably is blue vitriol, otherwise known as copper sulphate, which turns red on contact with acidsin this case the uric acid in the sweat secreted by glands in the armpit. The Latin charm from Cornwall (A5) has also been recorded in use on the Isle of Man (Moore 1891, 98), and can also be found in Reginald Scot's Discoverie of of 1584 (Scot 1972, 155). The folklorist Robert Witchcraft Hunt, who collected it, observed that as the charm was "repeated by ignorant old men or women, it becomes a confused jargon of unmeaning words, but it impresses the still more ignorant sufferer with awe" (Hunt 1923, 414). A.W Moore remarked that the consequence of translating this charm would be "that its efficacy would be lost for ever" (Moore 1891, 98). The Latin can be translated, but would have been meaningless to those who were using it in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. However, just as with gibberish charms, it was precisely because of its incomprehensibility that it was deemed to have magical virtue. I have not come across any other examples of A2 being used in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, though it must be of some antiquity, since a version of it is again found in Scot's Discoverie (1972, 155). Considering the popularity of Scot's work amongst wise-men and wisewomen during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries (Davies 1995, 174), I think it quite likely that both A2 and A5 may actually owe their presence in the popular charm record to their inclusion in the Discoverie. Charm A7 seems to have been in use only in the Isle of Man during the nineteenth century. A similar version is given in Henderson (1879, 170). It may in fact be distantly related to the "Longinus formula" (based on the account of the soldier Longinus piercing the side of Jesus with a lance), a charm-type otherwise absent in the popular charm record. One medieval English version (translated from the Latin) runs as follows: A soldier of old thrusta lance into the side of the Saviour:immediatelythere flowed thence blood and water,-the blood of Redemption,and the water of Baptism. In the name of the Father+ may the blood cease. In the name of the Son + may the blood remain.In the name of the Holy Ghost + may no more blood flow from the mouth, the vein, or the nose (Harlandand Wilkinson1882, 77).

22 Another, extended, medieval version begins with the passage, "Three good brothers strolled on a road," which is similar to the opening line of the Manx charm (A7) (Boz6ky 1992, 87). Of early Anglo-Saxon origin, and known in much of western Europe, in England the Longinus formula has only survived in medieval manuscripts. B. Charmsfor the Toothache 1. Nineteenth-century charm from Wales (National Library of Wales MS. 6729B). A vers to ease the Toothake Petterlying by the Gates of Jerusalem,Serving greiff and Jesus came by and said why dost thou lye hear vexing greiff. Petteranswered and said my teeth doth ake So that i can not take no rest nor Sleep. Jesus said thy health i will give thee and to all that carrythese lines In the name of the Father and, Son and Holy Ghost. 2. From Devon (TDA 31 [1900]:112). Peter stood by the gate of Jerusalemweeping, and the Lord said unto Peter, "Why weepest thou Peter?"an he said "LordI am sore trobled with the tooth-ache that I know not what to do." The LordGod said "arise Peterand go with God,and I will help thee of the toothache." GrantLord that she that is troubled thou may help them in the name of the Fatheran of the Son an of the Holy Ghost. Amen. 3. From Cornwall (Hunt 1923, 414). Christpass'd by His brother'sdoor, Saw His brotherlying on the floor. "Whataileth thee, brother? Pain in the teeth? Thy teeth shall pain thee no more. In the name," &c. 4. From Dorset (Udal 1922, 219-20). As Peter sat on a stone weeping, our Saviour came to the Mount of Olives and said, "How is it here, Peter?" Peteransweredand said, "MyLordand my God, grievously tormentedwith the pain of the tooth."Our Saviour said unto Peter,"Arise,Peter,and be made whole. Whosoeverbelieveth on me and keepeth these words in memory or in writing shall never be troubledwith the pain of the tooth. In the name of the Father,and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen. 5. From Shropshire (Burne 1883, 182). In the name of God, when Jusessaw the Crooson wich he was to be crucified all is bones began to Shisver. Peter standing by said Jesus Christ cure all Deseces Jesues Christcure thy tooth ake.-Edward Latimer. 6. From Somerset. The charm was obtained from a blacksmith living near South Perrott (Letter 1866). Peter and Paul sat on a marblestone. Jesus came alone. Peter,said he, what makes you quake? Lord and master,it is the toothache. Arise, Peter,and be healed. Synopsis of (B)

Owen Davies

The common charm for toothache appears to be that in which Jesus "passes by" St Peter, usually as he sits, lies or stands by the gates of Jerusalem (see B1 and B2) (see Kittredge 1929, 389-93). In B4, however, the encounter takes place on the Mount of Olives, and in a Devon example we find Jesus "walking into the Garden of Gethsemane," where he comes across Peter weeping (Whitcombe 1874, 16). Sometimes we find Peter sitting on a stone--or more specifically, as in B6 and in a Sussex version of the formula (Latham 1878, 40), a marble stone. The particular reference to marble is also found in the French version of the charm, and again in charm El below. Edina Boz6ky has also commented on the common reference to marble in medieval Latin and vernacular incantations (Boz6ky 1992, 90). In B3 and B6 the charm narrative has been turned into a simpler rhyming verse, which presumably made it easier to remember. Charm B5 is markedly different from the others, and is, in fact, a rather impoverished version of the standard charm for the ague, which has been converted to encompass the cure of toothache. Judging from the sentence "Jesus Christ cure all Deseces," it may be that the dispenser of the charm altered it to cover a range of ailments as demand dictated. It is worth noting that "Jesus" is spelt differently each time in B5, probably as result of repeated copying. A Latin version of the Jesus/Peter encounter was in use in the early medieval period (Cockayne 1864-6, 64), and versions of it have also been recorded elsewhere in Europe, but usually with other religious figures standing in for Jesus and Peter (Kittredge 1929, 389-93). In a widespread French rendering of the charm we find St Appoline sitting on a marble stone while "Notre Seigneur" passes by, whereupon a similar conversation ensues as that between Jesus and Peter (Devlin 1987, 48). A more distant relative of the same charm was also in use in nineteenth-century Russia (Conrad 1989, 430). There seems to have been a tradition of writing the charm on the front leaf of the family Bible (Rawlence 1914, 82; Davies 1937, 54) or, as in the case of the Sussex version above, on the fly-leaf of a Bookof Common Prayer (Latham 1878, 40). C. Charms for the Ague and Fever 1. From Devon. Found in an old account-book in a farmhouse in Marystowe (TDA 31 [1899]:112). Our Savour Christwhen he came in sight of the cross where he was to suffer his body did shake. The Jeus asked him if he had the agoe. he answered and said "Allthese thatkeep this in woord or writingshall never

Healing Charmsin Use in England and Wales 1700-1950 be troubledwith an agoe or fever."So Lordhelp they servantsthatput theirtrustin thee throughJesusChrist. Amen. 2. From Sussex. Found around the neck of a dead man at Hurstpierpoint (Henderson 1879, 169). WhenJesusChristcameupon the Crossforthe redemption of mankind, He shook, and His Rood trembled. The Cheaf Preastsaid unto him, Art thou afraid,or as thou an ague? He said unto them, I am not afraid,neither have I an ague, and whosoever Believethin these words shall not be troubledwith anney Feaveror ague. So be it unto you. 3. From Shropshire. From a manuscript book belonging to a blacksmith-farrier ("Charms," 204). When our Saviour Jesus Christ Saw the Croos where on he was to be Crusified his bodey shaked the Juse said unto him shure you have got the Ague Jesus anceredand said wosoever beleveth in me and wereth these wordes shall never have the ague nor feverAmen Amen Amen + to be wore in the Bosom of Shurt. 4. Found on the Revd Robert Forbes, vicar of Rougham, Norfolk, who died on 25 November 1709. The charm was in a small blue silk bag which was tied with a small ribbon about the Minister's neck (Dawson 1932, 233-

23 Companion(Durant 1697 cited in Wright 1912, 235), and in Joseph Blagrave's Astrological Practice of Physick (Blagrave 1689, 135). A version of this charm can also be found in the widely published popular nineteenthcentury French chapbook Le medicin des pauvres. D. Charmsfor Scalds and Burns 1. Copied from the fly-leaf of a family Bible by an old lady living in Shropshire. To be said three times over the wound (Burne 1883, 183). Therewas 3 Angels com from the west, The one bro't fire and the other bro't frost, The other bro't the Book of JESUSCHRIST. In the Name of (etc.).Amen. 2. From Devon (TDA 18 [1886]:103). Therewere two angels that came from the East-one brought fire and the other ice; in ice, out fire, in the name of the Father,and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. 3. From Cornwall. Said nine times over a scald (Courtney 1890, 147). Threeladies (or virgins) come from the east: One with fire and two with frost; Out with thee, fire, and in with thee, frost: In the name of the Father,Son, and Holy Ghost. 4. From Shropshire. From a manuscript book belonging to a blacksmith-farrier ("Charms," 204). Mary mild has burnt hur child by the sparklingof the fire out fire in frost in the name of the father son and Holeygost Amen Amen Amen--to be said 9 times and the Lordespraierbefore & after. 5. From Cumbria (Cowper 1899, 314). To cure Bums or Scalds by Blowing thrice and Saying these words aftereach Blowing CouthaCold under the Clay trembleingis there any here that would Learnof the Dead to Curethe sores of Burningin the Name of God And in the name of God be it Amen Firstsay then Blow then say then Blow and it is done. 6. From Devon. The contributor writes, "The following
charm, given me in her own writing by an old lady

8).
Eywn uydlab ase byw udgaa eywd gwr yu esa Lbib bL tw udcab x lwr byw lwca Sazwr yln sdb byac ys xdshr qd ysab byge sm spew Lwacaastr Lsn mgb sxdshr mgd yscw mgb sm spew eyg maq wewd esda bywaw eqdra aysii mwcwd tw bdociwrt el by sm spew snwm snwm acwwb Lwaca.3 5. From Lincolnshire (Gutch and Peacock 1908, 123). When Jesus came near Pilate, He trembledlike a leaf, and the judge asked Him if He had the ague. He answered, He neither had the ague nor was He afraid; and whosoever bears these words in mind shall never fear ague or anything else. Synopsis of (C) These ague charms show a considerable degree of uniformity, with perhaps the most interesting departure being in C5 where Jesus comes across Pontius Pilate rather than the Cross. The seeming gibberish of C4 is, in fact, the same charm as the others but written in a secret alphabetical code. This undoubtedly lent it a greater magical aura, even though the sympathetic content of the apocryphal tale is lost. Warren R. Dawson found that some letters in the code had been miscopied, which suggests that the charm had been transcribed for the vicar in its coded form (Dawson 1932). Versions of this crucifixion ague charm were available in print in England during the seventeenth century and can be found in John Durant's ART and NATURE Joyn HAND in HAND Or, The Poor Mans Daily

some twenty years ago, was vouched infallible by her" (TDA 65 [1933]:126). This charmis for burns and scalds, repeat to yourself the words from the 15th verse of the 17th chapterof st John,just blow on the burntplace and pass your finger round and roundin this way o this is all, but you must have faith. Synopsis of (D) The Fire/Frost formula seems to have been the predominant charm in use throughout much of the country. Owing to centuries of repetition, the number of angels and the direction from whence they came vary

24 from example to example, though rarely do the angels come from the south. Charm D1 has been tinkered with somewhere down the line. Where there should be the adjuration "In Frost, out Fire"we find one of the Angels bringing the "Book of JESUS CHRIST."Technically,this makes the charm ineffective in that there is no sympathetic metaphor relevant to the healing process. Of course, in practice this corrupted version would have been deemed no less effective because of it. Charm D4 may represent a distinct Welsh borders regional variation on the Fire/ Frost formula, for we also find versions of it in a Herefordshire charmer's manuscript book (Leather 1912, 73), and in a mid- to late-eighteenth century receipt book from Gloucestershire (Gloucs. Record Office MS. P 218 MI1). I have come across no other example of charm D5 from England or Wales, though a version of it was used in Ireland."In the Irish version we find the sentence "Old clod beneath the day," which suggests that the use of the word "cold"in the Cumbrianversion may possibly be a misspelling of "clod."The word "Coutha"presumablyrelatesto the dialect word "couth,"for a cold (Taylor1901). In discussing toothache charms we saw how an ague charm formula had been adapted to cure toothache. Similarly, in Durant's ART and NATURE,we find the Angel/ Fire/ Frost charm being converted into an ague charm by reversing the command "in Frost, out Fire," thus, by ordering "in Fire," countering the shivering chills associated with agues and fevers. E. Charmsagainst Swelling, Inflammation and Associated Pains 1. From Devon. Obtained from a charmer who used it in charming handkerchiefs, which were then tied round the limbs of those suffering from a complaint called "the white swelling." It is to be repeated nine times, and each time the Lord's Prayer is to be said (Langdon 1894). As Christwas walking he saw the VirginMary sitting on a cold, marblestone. He said unto her, "Whataileth thee?"He said unto her,"Ifit is a white ill-thing,or a red ill-thing,or a blackill-thing,or a sticking,cracking, pricking, stabbingbone ill-thing,or a soreill-thing,or a swelling ill-thing,or a rottenill-thing,or a cold, creepingillthing, or a smartingill-thing,let it fall from thee to the earth,in my name,and the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.Amen. So be it." 2. From Devon. One of several charms in the possession of one Blatchford, Sexton of Bridestowe (TDA 17 [1885]:121). Our LordJesusChristcome fromthe mount'sfoot, saw Abrahamasleep on the cold ground. Our Lord spoke and said, "Whatbest show her for?"Abrahamspoke and said, "Itis good to know what I be here for-taken with an out blow, aching,burningthatI know not what to do." Our LordJesusChristsaid, "Riseup, Abraham, fromthe cold, cold ground.I will make thee safe sound in the name of the Father,and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.Amen."

Owen Davies 3. From Devon. Copy of a charm found at Marystowe among the papers of a former inhabitant of a neighbouring parish (TDA 31 [1899]:111). Our Saviour Christ blessg for an Inflamationor any other evil thing or any like evil. (bless.) The Queen of parestis gone into a farcountryto kill and destroyboth men and women and children,and then her meet our blessed LordSaviourJesus Christ.He said "Whereart thou going thou Queen of parest?""I am going into a far country to kill and destroy both men women and children.""ThouQueen of parest turn again: thy evil shall never do no harm,in the name of the fatherand of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen." 4. From Devon (TDA 27 [1895]:65). Our dear Lord SaviourJesus Christ.hee sawe Joseph lying on the cold ground thy sidelese year. Joseph-I are stricken sordbolt, sordbolt, sordbolt, strickenstabing, pricking,aching;I know not what to do. Our dear saviour-take up thy Bed and walk. Our dear Lord saw Jesus Christ and pailet sit at the gate of Jerusalemweeping. Faith I hope the Lord will Bless it to thee whereverit is. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. 5. From Devon. In using this charm the charmer must pass the hand the same way as the sun goes, and then pass it towards the ground (TDA 31 [1899]:112). As our Blessed VergenMary was walking over along leading her youngest son by the hand he hang down his hed. "Why dew you hang youre hed so low my son?" "My hed doth ake and all my bones." "I fear some ill thing you have. I will bless you for ill things." (red ill, wite ill, black or blew or all other) down to the ground in the name of our LordJesus Christ. I bless thee (you must mention the name of the person) in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, Amen-of the Father,the Son, and Holy Gost. Amen. 6. From a charmer who lived at Lew Down, Devon. To be repeated three times (Baring-Gould 1925, 144). The VirginMaryset the Babe on her lap, and there an Inflammationcaughtand a blisterrose. She blew on it, and the Child also;and the Blisterleft. So shall it leave [name]In the Name of the Father,and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. 7. From Devon. In using this, the charmer hung a branch of whitethorn on a wall, without allowing it to touch the ground. Then she took nine small pieces of different-coloured cloths tied in a bunch, and some raw cream. The patient sat under the thorn, the bits of cloth were dipped into the cream and "dapped" upon the inflamed area. It must be done 5, 7, 9, 11, 13, or any odd number of times (TDA 31 [1899]:113). There was three brothers come from the North West going to the South, to kill and to cure (name person in full) for Ringworm-Wild Titters-Burn-gout-Itching

Healing Charmsin Use in England and Wales 1700-1950 Gout-Smarting gout-Water-gout-chicken-pox-St. Tanterous Fire-Girdleing or whateverit may be, in the name of the Father,Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen. 8. From Marystone, Devon. A charm for "burn-gout" (TDA 31 [1899]:113).6 Threeor four fairmaidens came fromdivers lands crying for burn-gout-acheing, smarting,and all kinds of burn-gout-they went to the burrowtoun-there they had bretheren three-they went to the salt seas and they never more returnedagain-he or she shall have their health again in the name of the Father,and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen. So be it. 9. From Devon. To cure "barngun" (ringworm). It was accompanied by the following ritual, "Take three locks of wool-one white, one grey, one black-dip them into a basin of clotted cream, and when thoroughly saturated, take each lock and rub in succession each infected spot on the skin. Hang the wool on sprigs of white thorn against the wind to dry. Repeat this process five, seven, or nine times, as the cure may require" (Hewett 1900, Synopsis of (E)

25

78).

Therewere threeangels come from the west, to cure [ ] of the barngun, white barngun, red barngun, black barngun, aching, sticking, pricking,barngun, all sorts of barngun, barngun-bubee,ill will I prove 'e. I stick thee up on thees yer thorn, there thou shalt die, and never come near'n no more, in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.-Amen. 10. From Cornwall. A charm for a "tetter" (ringworm) (Hunt 1923, 414). Tetter, tetter,thou hast nine brothers. God bless the flesh and preservethe bone; Perish,thou tetter,and be thou gone. In the name, &c. Tetter, tetter,thou hast eight brothers. God bless the flesh and preservethe bone; Perish,thou tetter,and be thou gone. In the name, &c. The charm continues until tetter, having "no brother," is imperatively ordered to be gone. 11. From Cornwall. Charm for "wildfire" (shingles) (Courtney 1890, 150). Christ,he walketh over the land, Carriedthe wildfire in his hand, He rebukedthe fire, and bid it stand; Stand, wildfire, stand (threetimes repeated): In the name of, etc. 12. From (?) "A recet for the ceronsepels" (erysipelas?) (Henderson 1879, 149). As our blessed Lady sat at her bowery Dower, Withhir dear Daughteron her nee, Watingon the snock snouls and the wilfier And the Ceronsepelcoming in at the town end, By the name of the LordI medisen thee.

I have come across no definite examples of inflammation charms from outside south-west England. I suspect, from its content, that charm E12, given to William Henderson by the "Vicar of K-," may come from Devon not the "northern counties" of Henderson's title. Henderson cites examples of Devon folklore several times. The "Vicar of K-" may be the same person as the "Rector of Kenn," near Exeter, whom he mentions elsewhere (Henderson 1879, 194). Even within the limited geographical region of Devon and Cornwall, we can detect distinct regional variations. The charm types represented in the first nine examples from Devon, do not seem to have been in use in Cornwall, and conversely, I have found no examples from Devon of the specific charms for "tetters" and "wildfire" in use in Cornwall. If we look more closely at the content of those first nine charms and at E12, we find an extraordinary diversity within a comparatively small area, but it is possible to divide them up into three loose categories according to three detectable motifs. (i) Charms El, E2 and E4 all begin with Christ coming across another biblical figure, who is sitting/ lying / sleeping upon a cold surface. Even here we have an unusual level of diversity in that in each charm we find a different character; the Virgin Mary in El, Abraham in E2, and Joseph in E3. The same motif is found in toothache charms. (ii) Charms E5, E6 and E12 all have the central motif of the Virgin Mary with one of her children who falls ill. In E5, Mary is walking with her "youngest son," and in E12 we find "our blessed Lady" nursing one of her daughters. (iii) In charms E3, E7, E8 and E9 the central narrative theme concerns various mythical agents travelling from one place to another, who in E7, E8 and E9 cure the inflammation on their passage. In E3 the motif is reversed, and we find the "Queen of parest" bringing with her death and destruction, but she is prevented from proceeding by the intervention of Christ.7 Common to all three categories is the narration of a descriptive inventory of the various inflammatory ailments the charm could heal. In E7 the various complaints are named specifically; we find three types of gout, ringworm, "Wild Titters" (ringworm), chickenpox, "St Tanterous Fire" which is presumably St Anthony's fire, otherwise known as erysipelas, and "Girdleing."8In El, E3, E5 and E9 we find an enumeration of the possible colours of the inflammation and the pains associated with it. Charm E10 is a good example of a diminishing charm based on inverted counting, an archaic and ubiquitous type in which the charmer begins by enumerating a number of persons or objects, of which there are usually nine to begin with, then subtracting one each time until none is left. This charm formula seems to have had a long association with the cure of swelling. An Anglo-Saxon charm for "swollen glands, and for

26
scrofula and for worm, and for every evil" begins, "Nine were node's sisters; then the nine became eight, and
the eight became seven ..." (Bonser 1963, 252). Margaret

OwenDavies
5. Copied from a North Devon farmer's MS book containing prescriptions for many cattle ailments (TDA 61 [1929]:127). Blessing for Sting.-Ader, Ader, Ader; Lay under a Stone or Hole, he hath done this beast wrong 1 fold, 2 fold, 3 fold, in the name of the Father, of the Son, so let this sting pass away from this wretchedverment if the Lord please. Amen.

Courtney gives an almost identical Cornish charm in which the tetter "hast nine sisters" instead of "nine brothers" (Courtney 1890, 149); and in Brittany a charm for tumours similarly begins, "The gland has nine
daughters, from nine they became eight ..." (Bonser

1963, 253). A common charm for boils in parts of former Yugoslavia works on exactly the same principle and begins, "The boil has nine eyes; it's not nine but eight; it's not eight but seven," and ends in the usual way, "it's not one, but none!" (Conrad 1983, 104).

Synopsisof (F)
As with inflammation charms, I have come across no examples of charms for adder bites from outside the south-west of England, although one nineteenth century Sussex folklorist knew of a local charmer who had inherited a charm for snake bite from her mother, but had lost it (Latham 1878, 36). In the north of England there is a long history of charming snake bites by touching the affected area with an object from Ireland, usually a stick or stone.9 It may be that this tradition rendered a verbal charm redundant. Charm F1 is based upon a passage from the Bible. It consists of the first and second verses of the Psalm 67: Let God arise, let His enemies be scattered;let them also thathate Him flee beforeHim. As smoke is driven away, so drive them away; as wax melteth before the fire, so let the wicked perish at the presenceof God. This was recited verbatim as a charm for snake bite by one old man living in Torrington (TDA 9 [1877]:97),but in F1 the two verses have been modified and turned into one rhyming verse, to be repeated three times. Charms F2 and F3 are again based on apocryphal events in which someone is stung by a snake living in a wood; in F2 the Virgin Mary's baby, and in F3 the archangel Gabriel's man-servant. We have already seen the Virgin Mary with baby/son/daughter motif in charms D4, E5 and E6. It is worth noting the unusual element of bargaining between Gabriel and the serpent in F3. The reference to hog's lard presumably relates to the fact that it was commonly used as the fatty base for herbal unguents. In charm F4 we see the inverted counting formula being used once more, and again, like E10, I have found it only in Cornish sources. Another Cornish version begins with the rhyming couplet, "underneath this hazeline worm with a speckled throat, mote, There's a Braggoty1o Nine double is he: Now from nine double to eight double ..." It was to repeated thrice (Hawker 1870, 177). Charm F5 is the only example of its type I have found. G. Charmsfor Strains and Sprains 1. From Shropshire. From a manuscript belonging to a blacksmith-farrier ("Charms," 203). Our SauiourJesusCristroateon a marbelStoneSenow to SenowJointto JointBoneto Bonehe Roatthes wordes everey one In the Name of the FatherSone and Holey

for theBiteof an Adder F.Charms


1. From Devon. Obtained from a charmer living at Lew Down (Baring-Gould 1925, 144). Let God arise and then the foe will turn to flight And from fear would scatterout of sight, The Firethat melts the wax. Wind blow this way, Then in the presenceof the Lordthis wicked shall decay. In the Name of, etc. (Thricerepeated.) 2. From Bridestow, Devon. "A charm against the sting of a 'Long-cripple"' (TDA 32 [1900]:91). Our Blessed VirgenMary sot and soad her Blessed Babesot and plead TheirTing Wormout of Eldernwood did Ting our Blessed Saviourby the foot his BladerBlud and never broke Thine shall BreakN.B. TingTing or Rye Ting in the Name of the FatherSon and Holy Gost Amen, Pray God expell the Ting. 3. From Devon. One of several charms belonging to the charmer Blatchford, sexton of Bridestowe (TDA 17 [1885]:120). As Gabrieland his man went in the wood the vermin stung Gabriel'sman by the hand. Gabrielsaid unto the serpent, "Why stingest thou my man?" The serpent said, "Iknow not thy man."Gabrielsaid, "Whatshall I give in exchange for the spear?" The serpent said, "Three hogs' lard,and thy man shallbe restoredto thee God the Son, and again in the name of God the Father, God the Holy Ghost. Amen." 4. From Cornwall (Couch 1871, 148). Bradgty, bradgty,bradgty,under the ashing leaf. Tobe repeated three times, and strike your hand with the growing of the hare. Bradgty,bradgty,bradgty to be repeated three times before eight, eight before seven, and seven before six, and six before five, and five before four,and four before three, and three before two, and two before one, and one before every one, three times for the bit [sic] of an adder.

in Use in England and Wales1700-1950 HealingCharms


Gost Amen Swet JesusAmen Swet JesusAmen. Going round the afflictedplace each time with your hand and the Lordespraiereach time and marckit thus + 3 times or if verry bad 9 times. 2. From Cornwall (Couch 1871, 148). Christ rode over the bridge, Christ rode under the bridge; vein to vein; strain to strain, I hope God will take it back againe. 3. From Devon. Obtained from a Dartmoor farmer's wife, who told how her mother had a book full of charms, from which she had copied several (TDA 27 [1895]:65). Blessing for Strain.-As Christwas riding over cross a Bridge,his leg hee took and blessed it, and said thiss words: "Boneto Bone. Sinnes to Sinnes. Vainsto Vains." Hee blessed it, and it come hole again. In the name of the Father, and of the Son,and of the Holy Ghost.Amen. 4. From Devon (Baring-Gould 1925, 144). As Christwas riding over CrollyBridge,His horse slid and sprainedits leg. He alightedand spakethese words. "Boneto bone, and sinew to sinew."And He blessed it and became well. And so shall [name] come well, in the Name, etc. (Tobe repeatedthrice.)

27
ably Crolly!/Colley bridge was actually the name of a local bridge, and having Christ riding over a known local landmark lent the charm an added potency through sympathetic association.

H. Charms in theFleshandAssociated for a Thorn Wounds


1. From Norfolk (Glyde 1872, 39). Jesus of a maid was born, He was pricked with nails and thorn. Neither blains nor boils did fetch at the bone, No more shall this, by Christour Lord.Amen. Lordbless what I have said. Amen. So be it unto thee as I have said. 2. From Yorkshire (Dyer 1878, 173). Unto the VirginMary our Saviourwas born, And on His head He wore a crown of thorn: If you believe this true, and mind it well, This hurt will never fester nor swell. 3. From Sussex (Latham 1878, 36). Our Saviour Christwas of a pure virgin born, And He was crownedwith a thorn; I hope it may not rage nor swell; I trust in God it may do well. 4. From Shropshire. From a manuscript belonging to a blacksmith-farrier ("Charms," 203) ToDrawe a thorn.-Then cameJesusforthwhering the crownof thornsand the purpelrobeand pilatsaid write [? unto] them behold the man Amen Amen Amen-to be said 9 times and the Lordespraierbefore and hafter hold your midil finger on the place and go round it
each time and marck it thus +.

Synopsis of (G)
The "bone to bone, vein to vein, sinew to sinew" syntactic formula is one of the oldest found in European and Slavic charms, and the Russian folklorist Toporov collected versions from the Scandinavian, western and south-east European, and Sanskrit languages (Conrad 1989, 437). In the earliest Germanic examples of this sprain charm, the pagan god Balder rides his horse across a bridge: as in the charms above, it is his horse which suffers the sprain, upon which three goddesses unsuccessfully apply their healing arts; subsequently the god Woden appears and effects a cure (Grendon 1909, 111). In the modern German version of the same charm the pagan gods have been replaced by New Testament figures, usually Jesus, St Peter or St John (Perez 1988, 180). Charm G1 is very much the odd one out of this group of charms since all the others I have come across are based on the motif of Christ riding a horse over a bridge. The recurring "marble stone" symbol appears once more. A similar version can be found in the manuscript book of the charmer John E-, from neighbouring Herefordshire (Leather 1912, 74). In G4 the bridge is specifically named as "Crolly Bridge." This version was obtained from a charmer living at Lew Down, on the north-western edge of Dartmoor. A very similar version of the same charm was collected from a Mrs Heggadon, who lived at Halwell, some ten miles north of Lew Down, in which the bridge is called "Colley Bridge" (TDA 32 [1900]:91). Presum-

5. From Devon. Found in an old account-book in a farmhouse in Marystowe (TDA 31 [1899]:112). When Christwas uppon middle earthhe was prickhis blood sprung into heven. it shall Neither runkle, canker nor rust-neither shall thy blood (then name the person'sname you do it for and say) in the name of the fatherand of the Son and of the holy ghost. 6. From Southmolton, Devon (TDA 27 [1895]:65). Our Blessed Savour Came Down from heaven, was pricked with a thorne, his Blood went up to heaven again, his flesh Neither Kankered, Rankled, nor fustured, Neither shall thine N-, in the name of father,&c., &c. Amen. 7. Charm used by Mrs Heggadon, Halwell, Devon (TDA 32 [1900]:91). Christ met His disciples, and asked where they were going. They said they were going into the garden to gatherthe preciousherb for the prickof a thorn.Christ said it should neither wrink nor fester.In the Name, etc.

28 Synopsis of (H) There is some content diversity in these charms. Nevertheless, there would seem to be one prevalent type, as represented in the first three charms (from Norfolk, Yorkshire and Sussex). All three are based on the same motif and rhyming couplet in which we are told that Christ was born of a virgin and was subsequently pricked by a thorn. The association of Jesus with thorn pricks obviously relates to the events recorded in John 19:1 and 2, where it is said that, "Pilate took Jesus and scourged him. And the soldiers, platting a crown of thorns, put it upon his head; and they put on him a purple garment." Furthermore, H4 is, in fact, a poor copy of the fifth verse of the same chapter, "Jesus therefore came forth, bearing the crown of thorns and the purple garment. And he saith to them: Behold the Man." Considering this general association with the Passion of Christ, it may be that the apocryphal narrative in H7 derives from John18:1where it is stated that Jesus "went forth with his disciples over the brook Cedron, where there was a garden, into which he entered with his disciples." This is, of course, the spot where Jesus was arrested. Charms H5 and H6 are two examples of a formula in use in Devon in which the "virgin born" motif does not appear. The same charm was also being used in Devon to prevent bleeding after being pricked. In a case reported to Henderson by the Revd George Arden, vicar of North Bovey, Devon, in 1860, the charm was effective in curing a "hurt by a fish-bone" (Henderson 1879, 169). I. Charmfor Intestinal Worms 1. Marie Trevelyan cited the following charm, which was collected in a village near Bridgend, Glamorgan, and which has been translated from imperfect Welsh. Though it was sometimes spoken in Welsh, it was usually employed in English. The translator could not tell for what purpose it was used (Trevelyan 1909, 226). God the Fatherdown did ride, Quick and fast the fork He tried. He lifted worms that were out of sightOne was black, the other was white; One was mottled, one was red; Soon the worms were killed and dead. Heal, O Lord,as soon as said! Synopsis of (I) Although I have found no other versions of this charm in modem English or Welsh sources, a similar formula was used as a charm for intestinal worms in Missouri (Randolph 1964, 137). It runs as follows: God's mother Mary walked the land, She held three worms all in her hand, One white, one black, an' t'other'nred, For lesus' sake the worms are dead!

Owen Davies This is undoubtedly the same charm type as the Welsh example, and the latter was, presumably, employed for the same purpose. Certainly the description of "worms that were out of sight" suggests as much. J. Wart Charming Magical methods employed for removing warts have been legion and could usually be employed by the sufferers themselves (see, for example: Drury 1991; Chandler 1994; Davies 1995). Nevertheless, despite this common forum of knowledge, there were also numerous wart charmers who were thought to possess some extra knowledge or healing gift. Wartcharmers were usually recorded as whispering something "not understood." I have not come across any examples of archaic word-charms, but whatever was said was obviously crucial to the healing process, for as one Warwickshire wart-charmer explained, "'tis the words as make 'em goo, sir. Even a old seed-wart canna stan' again the words" (Morley 1917, 227). The whispered words were possibly the Lord's Prayer or a passage taken from the Bible. Simple doggerel verse charms have been recorded. These often accompanied popular wart cures, which were usually based on sympathetic magic involving the decay of some organic matter such as a bean shell or on transferal magic. One such rhyme was recorded from Somerset: One, two, three Wartsgo away from me, One, two three four, Never come back no more (Tongue1965,43). However, in no way do these simple verses resemble the archaic formulae already cited for other ailments in terms of content or structure. It may be that the wart charmer's "words" consisted of no more than these doggerel verses, which were imbued with a sense of mystery by the incomprehensible way in which they were uttered. Discussion Numerological Significance Three is the most significant number associated with these healing charms, as it also is in Anglo-Saxon charms. Charms A1, A3, A4, Fl, F4, G4 state that the charm must be repeated three times; C3 ends with a triple "Amen"; F5 begins with a triple repetition of "Ader"; and E4 contains the triple repetition of "sordbolt." The arrival of three mythic figures is also central to many of these charms. In E9, and in charms for scalds and burns, we find three angels; in A7 three godly men (Christ, Peter and Paul) and three "young women"; in E7 "three brothers," and in E8 "three or four fair maidens." The most obvious explanation for the prevalence of the number three is that it is an expression of the Holy Trinity,the appeal to whom ends many of the charms.

and Wales1700-1950 in Use in England HealingCharms


Three is the number of God, and as such is consummate and blessed, the most holy of numbers. Not surprisingly, the number recurs again and again in the New Testament; for example, the three Marys-Virgin Mother, Cleophas, and Magdalen; the three magi bearing three gifts; the three temptations of Christ; the three denials of Christ by Peter; and the three days between Christ's crucifixion and resurrection. In the apocrypha we also find the Virgin Mary being tended by three virgins during the Passion. However, as a magical number, three predates western Christianity, so we should not assume that the recurring motif of three mythical agents in these charms indicates a biblical origin. Triplications abound in Greek mythology, for example. In Celtic mythology three and multiples of three, especially nine, were of profound significance, and found their most obvious expression in the triple aspect of the mother-goddess Brigid, or Brigantia (O hOgain 1991, 60). In Norse mythology, the mighty world tree, Yggdrasill, was watered by three maidens, the Norns, who dwelt near the spring of fate and ruled the destinies of men. The three goddesses who unsuccessfully apply their healing arts to Balder's horse in early Saxon versions of the Christ / horse sprain charm may relate to the Norns. So, by simply changing the names, or by making them anonymous, the tripleaspect, mythic-mediation figures in these charms could easily be adapted to both pagan and Christian belief systems. Nevertheless, it should not be assumed that those who used such charms were aware of either pagan or Christian symbolism, though three was obviously considered a significant number. In the tradition of popular charming, as opposed to the tradition of the charms themselves, the magical potency of three is far more important than the origin of that potency. In other words, in the context of popular charming the use of three should not be imbued with any pagan or, perhaps, even Christian significance. In charms A4, D4, G1, and H4, all taken from an early nineteenth-century manuscript book belonging to a blacksmith-farrier of Clun, Shropshire, we find nine as a significant number. In A4, and G1 the reader is instructed to recite the charm three times for mild cases but nine times if the wound be "verry bad." In the ritual accompanying E7 it is specified that "nine small pieces of different-coloured cloth" be used; El was to be repeated nine times; and in all the examples of inverted counting charms the charmer counted down from nine. Nine, being the multiplication of three by itself, lent the charm a threefold power of healing when required. This triplication of the power of three is found inAngloSaxon charms and medicine. For example, in the Lacnunga, a magico-medical commonplace book, a herbal prescription for pock and scab in sheep advises, "Put a dose into the mouth with a spoon, always three a day; nine times if there be great need" (Bonsor 1963, 253).

29 Content andApocryphal Biblical


The Christian content of these charms can be divided into three derivative groups: (i) those which are--or are based on-passages from the Old and New Testaments; (ii) those based on apocryphal versions of New Testament history; (iii) those which may possibly have had a pagan origin, the charm having been christianised by supplanting pagan gods and goddesses with New Testament figures. (i) Examples of the first group are seen in charms A9, D6, F1, and H4, and in a Devon charm for "white mouth" (thrush) which consists of Psalms 8:2 and 3 (TDA 85 [1953]:218)." The content of these passages has direct relevance to the complaints the charms are meant to cure, so it is easy to see why, though impossible to say when, they began to be utilised as healing charms. In D6 (for burns), and F1 (for adder-bites) there is no such obvious connection. Instead we find in John 17:15 and Psalms 67:1-2 general appeals for protection against "evil" and "wickedness" respectively. It should also be noted that in A4, D4, El and G1 the Lord's Prayer had to be recited as well as the charm. Mother Hampton, a Gloucestershire charmer of burns, recited the Lord's Prayer five times in rapid succession as well as the charm itself (Letter 1851). (ii) The folklorists and antiquarians who collected these charms made little comment on the derivation of their content. Some realised that many of the narratives had no biblical basis, a few others guessed at pagan symbolism behind a Christian veneer, but none suspected any apocryphal origin. One of the reasons for their drawing this conclusion was the general lack of awareness concerning apocryphal history,12and the difficulty in tracing the often debased narratives to a particular apocryphal text. We have already seen one clear identification of an apocryphal story in the Jordan formula for stanching blood, but the identification of others is extremely difficult. The narrative in charms F2 and F3, for adder-bites, may relate to a passage in the apocryphal Infancy Gospels where Jesus cures his brother, James, of snake-bite. It is told in the Gospel of

Thomas:

And Josephsent his son Jamesto bind fuel and carryit into his house.And the young childJesusalso followed him. And as James was gathering of faggots, a viper bit the hand of James.And as he was sore afflictedand ready to perish, Jesus came near and breathed upon the bite, and straightwaythe pain ceased, and the serpent burst, and forthwithJamescontinued whole. The fact that Jesus and James do not appear directly in either F2 or F3 (though, presumably, Jesus is the "Blessed Babe" mentioned in F2) does not invalidate this suggested derivation, for we have already seen that the same slot in a given motif may be filled by different sets of biblical characters. In B3, E5 and E12 we find mention of Jesus's brothers and sisters and, although they are briefly mentioned

30

Owen Davies

in the Bible, their presence is much more obvious in In Robert Hunt's experience, charmers of scalds and the apocrypha. In the apocryphal gospel the burns often placed bramble- or dock-leaves, wetted Protevangeliumof James, for example, we are told that with spring-water, upon the sore patch. Blowing upon Jesus's "brothers" and "sisters" are step-brothers and the smarting area was also practised (see D5 and D6). The sign of the cross was sometimes made over the step-sisters, the children of Joseph by a previous marafflicted been some debate area. In charms A4 and G1, for example, the In there has theofact, amongst riage. of the New reader is instructed to "marck the place thus + with the as to correct Tesinterpretation logians tament's use of "brother" and "sister" in relation to your midel finger." In Cornwall the crossing of two Christ. This is apparent in the Douay version of the sticks over the afflicted area was also practised. When Bible, edited and annotated by Bishop Challoner (1691- charming for snake-bites, the Cornish charmer Tony 1781), where the passage in Matthew 13:55-"Is not his Cleverdon cut two pieces of hazelwood, fastened them mother called Mary, and his brethren James and Joseph together in the shape of a cross, and laid it softly upon and Simon and Jude?"-is accompanied by a note ex- the wound whilst reciting the inverted-counting charm, plaining that James, Joseph, Simon and Jude were in "blowing out the words aloud like one of the fact the children of Mary's sister, Mary Cleophas, and commandiments" (Hawker 1870, 177). Robert Hunt that "according to the usual style of the Scripture, they recalled being taken to an old woman near Gwinear, to were called brethren, that is, near relations to our Sav- have a "seedy wart" charmed. The old lady took two iour." Jesus's "sisters" are mentioned in Matthew 13:56 charred sticks from the hearth fire and carefully crossed and Mark6:3,but are not named; in the apocrypha, how- them over the wart whilst muttering "some words" ever, we are told that Jesus had two sisters, though their (Hunt 1923, 412). Another ritual act which accompanames differ according to the various sources. In the nied the saying of charms was "rounding," whereby Story of Joseph,for example, they are called Assia and the hand, or more specifically the middle finger, was Ludia, whilst Epiphaniuscalls them Mary and Salome. drawn round and round the wound, decreasing the cirI suspect, therefore, that the presence of Jesus's broth- cumference of the circle each time (see D6, G1 and H4). ers and sisters (usually in their infancy) in these charms, derives from apocryphal histories rather than from the Abbreviation New Testament. of the DevonshireAssociationfor the Ad(iii) The third category, relating to charms of possi- TDATransactions vancement of and Art. Literature Science, should be in seen relation to the bly pagan origin, apocas Hennecke has one of the for, observed, rypha, Edgar principal motives for the generation of the apocrypha Notes can be found in the process by which pre-Christian re'The author hopes to provide a more detailed discussion ligious beliefs were taken over to promote the Chrisof charm transmission in a subsequent paper on charmers tian proclamation of the gospel (Hennecke 1963, 63). and charming. As I have already noted, the earliest extant version of the horse-rider sprain charm predates western Christi2For a rhyming version of this charmfromDevon see TDA anity, and the simple three angels/ladies charm for 32 (1900):91. scalds and burns resembles motifs identified in archaic 3Decodedand correctedthe charmruns as follows: prechristian formulae. The Devon inflammation charms based around three mythical agents, and E3 which conWhen Christ saw The cross Wherone he was [ ] To be cerns the "Queen of parest," for example, bear some crusified the Jews asked him "Art though hafraid or hast thow an Ague Jesus said I am not afraid nor have similarity to western versions of an early Jewish and not an ague whoesoever wars these words shall never Byzantine charm in which three angels encounter a be troubled with an ague Amen Amen sweet Jesus." demon while walking on Mount Sinai. They ask where he is going, and he tells them he is off to inflict pain on s "Repeat these words three times over unto yourself, giva certain person (Kieckhefer 1990, 72). ing a gentle blow each time from your mouth on the place
burned:

Healing Adjuncts In the case of skin disorders and injuries, the healing action of the charms was sometimes augmented by the application of various soothing agents which would immediately assuage some of the pain. In charms E7 and E9 cream was "dapped" upon the inflamed area. An old lady of Ashburton, Devon, charmed away erysipelas by "striking" the affect area with the milk of a red cow, and sometimes by additionally bathing the affected areas in warm water and rubbing in "seven sorts of trade," i.e. soap liniment (TDA 15 [1883]:100).

Old clod beneath the clay Burn away, burn away In the name of God be thou healed. Amen" (Paulsen 1970, 101). 6An almost identical copy of this charm was in the possession of the charmer Blatchford, of Bridestow, Devon (TDA 17 [1885]:121). 7The "Queen of parest" may derive from the verb "pare" meaning to injure or to impair, and so could be interpreted as "Queen of harm or injury." Two possible alternatives, kindly suggested by Jacqueline Simpson, are that it is a cor-

Healing Charmsin Use in England and Wales 1700-1950


ruption of "Paradise," or of "pharisees," a dialect term for fairies. 8"Girdleing" seems to be a vernacular term for shingles, a form of herpes which can spread round the body like a girdle. "Shingles" derives from the Latin "cingulum," a girdle. 9Foran account of Irish object charms, see Webb 1969 and Davies 1995:242-3. means spotted, and "Double" a ring. o0"Braggoty" 1"O Lord our Lord, how admirable is thy name in the whole earth! For thy magnificence is elevated above heavens. Out of the mouth of infants and of sucklings thou hast perfected praise, because of thy enemies: that thou mayst destroy the enemy and the avenger."
12The only widely available compilation of apocryphal texts in the nineteenth century was William Hone's Apocryphal New Testament.Most of the texts given by Hone were actually taken from Jeremiah Jones's New and Full Method of Settling the CanonicalAuthority of the New Testament(London, 1726). Hone's book is also misleading in that nearly half the volume was made up of the writings of the Apostolic Fathers, which are not considered apocryphal (James 1924).

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Couch, T.Q. The History of Polperro.Truro: W. Lake, 1871. Courtney, Margaret. Cornish Feasts and Folk-Lore.Penzance: Beare and Son, 1890. Cowper, Henry Swainson. Hawkshead.London: Bemrose and Sons, 1899. Davies, Owen. The Decline in the Popular Belief in Witchcraft and Magic. Unpublished Ph.D. thesis. Lancaster, 1995. 48 (1937):45-55. Davies, T.A. "Folklore of Gwent." Folk-Lore Dawson, Warren R. "A Norfolk Vicar's Charm against Ague." Norfolk Archaeology24 (1932):33-9. Dean, Tony and Tony Shaw. The Folkloreof Cornwall.London: Batsford, 1975. Devlin, Judith. The SuperstitiousMind. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1987. Drury, Susan. "Plants and Wart Cures in England from the Seventeenth to the Nineteenth Century: Some Examples." Folklore 102 (1991):97-100. Durant, John. ART and NATURE Joyn HAND in HAND Or, The Poor Mans Daily Companion.London, 1697. Dyer, T.F.Thiselton. English Folklore.London: Hardwicke and Bogue, 1878. Foley, J.M. "Epic and Charm in Old English and SerboCroatian Oral Tradition." In ComparativeCriticism:A Yearbook,ed. E.S. Shaffer. 71-92. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981. Glyde, John. The Norfolk Garland.London: Jarroll and Sons, 1872. Grendon, Felix. "The Anglo-Saxon Charms." JournalofAmerican Folklore22 (1909):105-237. Gutch, Mrs and Mabel Peacock. Examplesof Printed Folk-Lore ConcerningLincolnshire.London: David Nutt for the Folklore Society, 1908. Harland, J.A. and T.T. Wilkinson. LancashireFolk-Lore.Manchester: John Heywood, 1882. Hawker, R.S. Footprintsof FormerMen. London: no publisher given, 1870. Hazlitt, William. Dictionary of Faiths and Folklore. London: Reeves and Turner, 1905. Henderson, William. Folk-Loreof the Northern Counties. London: Longmans, 1866; reprint London: Folk-Lore Society, 1879. Hennecke, E. New Testament Apocrypha.London: Lutterworth Press, 1963. Hewett, Sarah. Nummits and Crummits. London: T. Burleigh, 1900. Hone, William. Apocryphal New Testament.London: Author, 1820. Hunt, Robert. Popular Romancesof the West of England. London: Hotten, 1865; reprint of 3rd edn London: Chatto and Windus, 1923. Hunt, Tony. Popular Medicine in Thirteenth-CenturyEngland. London: Brewer, 1990.

13Foranother example of the survival of apocrypha in popular culture see the discussion on Saviour's Letters in Davies 1995, 196-8.

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Owen Davies
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